The backcourt is up first as we Learn more about Utah Jazz as we go into the offseason.
What did we like about it? It was one of the better offensive backcourts in the league this season, and probably one of the better backcourts overall. The reason why the Jazz didn’t advance beyond the first round of the postseason? Well, last season, this was one of the best backcourts in the league. This season, the backcourt was merely pretty good.
What’s not to like? It became too small, too slow, not athletic as a unit at the wrong time. And even more detrimental to the Jazz, it lost its offensive pop at the worst time.
The backcourt starts with Donovan Mitchell. The Utah Jazz going forward, in many ways, starts with Donovan Mitchell. He’s the franchise player. And if the Jazz are to establish a new ceiling within the Western Conference, it will be largely because Mitchell establishes a new ceiling within his individual game.
Much has been made about where Mitchell is at and where he needs to take his game. This has been true of him for a few years now. If Rudy Gobert defines the floor of the Utah Jazz, Donovan Mitchell defines the ceiling. For the Jazz to be competitive within the Western Conference going forward, Mitchell has to be that guy. He can’t just be an All-Star or someone who throws up 25 a night on OK efficiency. He’s got to be one of the best 15 players in the league, without question, all while making his teammates better. He will probably move to the point guard spot full-time next season, as the Jazz want to get bigger in the backcourt and on the perimeter in general. But the fortunes of the Utah Jazz in so many ways are hitched to what Mitchell is or is not able to do once next season rolls around.
Beyond Mitchell, the rest of the backcourt projects to be murkier going forward. At the same time, we know what it was looking back on the season. The mixture of Mitchell, who hasn’t yet reached his prime, with Mike Conley, who may be past his prime, and Jordan Clarkson, who is in his prime, to Nickeil Aleander-Walker and Trent Forrest and Jared Butler, who are true NBA young guys, is fascinating. As is trying to project who will or won’t be back once training camp rolls around.
Conley is as good a place to begin as any. He had a sympathetic season. That’s probably the best way to describe it. The Jazz had so many injuries and so many guys in and out of the lineup in January that Conley had to carry an on-court burden that he probably shouldn’t have had to at his age and physical build. As a result, he never quite got his body back to where it needed to be. And as a result of that, he regressed significantly over the last half of the regular season. And then regressed beyond that regression in the playoffs.